The After Dark Originals series, for me, has been decidedly hit or miss. With "Fertile Ground," my hopes were buoyed by the fact that the movie is actually quite well constructed and shot. It is a professional endeavor with two thoroughly appealing lead actors. And yet, I have a striking ambivalence about the final product. While I wanted to love it and get wrapped up in the story, I could never shake the fact that the picture offered absolutely nothing new to the genre. Every moment in the film you have seen in a dozen other similar movies. While not every ghost story can unravel an entirely new dimension, if you are going to play by established conventions--then make them as scary as possible, in-your-face, and incredibly well done. "Fertile Ground" plays it relatively safe all around: Familiar story, low-key effects, and minimal chills.
Start to end--a by the numbers plot:
1) Tragedy strikes young urban couple.
2) Still reeling, they relocate to a desolate country house.
3) House has malevolent history.
4) Spooky and unexplained phenomenon occur
5) Husband starts to become distant.
6) Final showdown as current owners face down demons of the past.
A lot of films follow this template. That, in and of itself, is not necessarily the problem. I love a number of movies that have used exactly the same formula. There just wasn't a moment in the film where I thought "hey, that's cool" or "hey, that's new" or "hey, that's gross." I didn't hate the movie by any means. It's easy to sit through and enjoy. I just don't think that I'll remember one bit of it in a week. So more than anything, I'm just apathetic. Which is too bad as I actually like the two lead actors (both here and in other work). Leisha Hailey (The L Word) is sympathetic and vulnerable as the wife in jeopardy--or is she just crazy? And Gale Harold is suitably menacing--or is he just misunderstood? They are two good actors that make the most of "Fertile Ground."
From a technical standpoint, everything would seem to be in order with director/writer Adam Gierasch's vision except that we've seen it before and we've seen it better. The complete lack of originality only scores this about 2 1/2 stars for me. I would recommend it only for fans of its lead actors. KGHarris, 10/11.